About

Techniques in Home Winemaking is a resource for home winemakers looking for information or help on making great wines, and to share that knowledge with fellow winemakers. This resource is based and builds on my book by the same title. Much of my experience is derived from extensive literature search as well as from my experience both as a home and a commercial winemaker. Click here if interested in ordering a signed copy of my book.

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  1. Mike M

    Hi Daniel,
    I want to say thank you for your book and all the help you have given me in wine making from my grapes grown in greenhouse here in Anchorage Alaska. I never made any wine before so your instructions were a big help. My Chard., Riesling and Pinot Gris turned out very well and its as good as any bottle in the store for $15.00.
    My kit wines which are now 120 days old taste very good also and they were made like the wines from grapes. I have not added any Sorbate from the kit as the wines were fermented to zero Brix, however , they do not taste dry like my other Cardonnnay wines; they have a hint of sweetness. Should I add sorbate?
    Thanks again, Mike

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      Hi Mike,

      Always happy to help a winemaker-in-need 😉

      I’m happy your wines turned out great. That’s the best reward for a winemaker, making something yourself and that you truly love and enjoy.

      If the kit came with sorbate, add it, and definitely do if you taste some sweetness. It won’t hurt but at least your mind will be at ease. Give the wine some time, they all do, to develop its rich aromas and flavors.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

      Reply
  2. Mike M

    Hi Daniel,
    My chard. kit wine has a ph of 3.3 and the kit instructions says to use the 4 gram packet of sulfite from the kit. According to my calculations, I would only need about 35ppm of SO2 and 1.4grams of SO2 for 5.5 gallons of wine. Why so much sulfite? Won’t that effect the taste? Thanks Mike

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      Hi Mike,
      You would typically need to add more sulfite to maintain your desired level (based on pH). Here, you are instructed to do a single addition, one single, large addition vs many smaller ones. The former, the kit strategy, is actually better …. I like it. It actually reduces your total SO2. I always add more than needed just for that reason. Infrequent large additions are more effective than frequent small additions.
      Daniel

      Reply
  3. Mike M

    Good morning Daniel ,
    thanks for the answers on SO2 additions. Is it ok to add 2 to 3 times more SO2 based up ph and FSO2 in the wine when I test it?
    Also after adding Sorbate, do I need to rack the wine again in a few days?
    Thanks Mike

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      Hi Mike,

      You have to set your desired FSO2, measure how much you have in the wine, and then add the amount (difference between those two numbers) required.

      Your desired FSO2 should be the recommended FSO2 based on ph (you can use the WineMaker Sulfite Calculator at http://winemakermag.com/1301-sulfite-calculator) plus some adjustment based on binding. The latter is mainly for reds; there is very little binding in young, fruity whites. But if you want to minimize SO2 additions, you can add 50-100% more. In 3 months when you check and re-measure your FSO2, you should still be above the recommended FSO2.

      No need to rack after adding sorbate. You should however filter AFTER the addition and before bottling.

      Daniel

      Reply
  4. David

    Hello Daniel,
    Referring to a past comment, where you mentioned using your nitro topping system with a stainless steel topping gun, I was curious of your sanitization process for the topping system itself.

    Do you disconnect the topping gun and the wine line and clean after each use? Or do you let the topping gun stay connected to the system and just clean the gun itself before and after use.

    If I think of it like any tap system, I’d think the wine could remain in the line.

    Thanks,
    David

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      Hi David,

      Sorry for the late reply. There seems to be a problem with notifications reaching me, and so, I was not aware of your message.

      I only top once a month, and since wine remaining in the line and topping gun is exposed to air, I flush the line and re-sanitize before next use.

      Daniel

      Reply
  5. Mike M

    Hi Daniel,
    I will be making white Pinot from my pinot noir grapes this fall and wondering if you have a chapter in your book about making white wine from red grapes. I did read the recent article in the wine maker magazine about white wine from red grapes, however, I would like to read more in preparation for this fall.
    Thanks Mike

    Reply
  6. Daniel Pambianchi

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry for the late reply. There seems to be a problem with notifications reaching me, and so, I was not aware of your message.

    No, I don’t have a specific chapter on making white wine from red grapes. You would simply need to press whole bunches and process the juice as any other white juice. There should be a little grape skin contact as possible, and so, I repeat, PRESS WHOLE BUNCHES and work quickly.

    Good luck.

    Daniel

    Reply
  7. Mike M

    Hi Daniel,
    for long term storage of white and red wine in glass carboys is a solid stopper better or an air lock?
    Thanks Mike

    Reply
  8. David

    Hello Daniel,
    If you don’t mind, I have a question regarding the MLF going on in my Chilean cab. Here is the timeline:
    Day 5 of AF: Inoculated must with MLB
    Day 7: AF complete
    Day 11: Pressed the skins

    I put free-run into a 54L demijohn with the pressed wine into a caboy.

    Day 12: I racked off the gross lees.

    In doing so, the last bit of wine quite a few lees ended up in a 0.5-gallon jug.
    This jug with a lot of lees and sludge is like a CO2 bomb with a lot of action going on (I assume MLF as the wine is dry).

    Meanwhile, with the rest of my wine, I am not getting much “visible” action of MLF, although tastewise I am getting some smoothing sensations (almost buttery) on my palate.

    Question #1 – Would the rest of my wine benefit from a little addition of the wine/less/sludge from the 0.5-gallon MLF mother or am I better off leaving everything alone?

    Question #2 – Generally do you rack off the gross lees a day after pressing when you have already initiated MLF (co-fermentation)?

    Thanks so much Daniel!

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      Hi David,

      Chilean Cab!! That’s great. I’m doing a Chilean Malbec … first time working with Chilean fruit.

      The CO2 is from the MLF but I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of residual sugar still fermenting. You probably measured Brix/SG with a hydrometer, which does not give very accurate results. Even when you measure dryness, there is still sugar being fermented. That’s why you should give the wine another 2 weeks to ensure that the AF is indeed complete to total dryness.

      I know it hurts home winemakers to toss out even a drop of wine, but you really need to discard that sludge — it’s an H2S (hydrogen sulfide) bomb to use your language. You don’t want to have to deal with H2S in your wine. Why risk it?

      I would have recommended you add malolactic nutrients instead, something like Opti-Malo, to have a better chance of success at 100% MLF. Anyways, just wait it out now. It can take weeks or months. If so, you need absolutely sanitary conditions as your wine is not protected with SO2.

      The problem with concurrent AF and MLF is that if the MLF is not complete and you need to press and then rack the wine off the gross lees, the racking can inhibit the lactic acid bacteria — they are somewhat sensitive to oxygen. I prefer to complete my AF, rack the wine off the gross lees, add malolactic nutrients and 24 hours later inoculate with lactic acid bacteria.

      But yes, you need to rack the wine off the gross lees after a day to avoid H2S problems.

      Sorry, gotta go rack my Chilean Malbec off the gross lees … I pressed yesterday. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Daniel

      Reply
  9. Mike M

    Hi Daniel,
    A friend has a kit wine and he added the small bottle of sweet reserve–230ml with the grape juice concentrate and then added the yeast. Will the sweet reserve interfere with the fermentation of the grape concentrate ? I know the total Brix will be slightly higher, but was wondering if the sweetener had sorbate in it . Thanks Mike

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      Hi Mike,
      I would think that the sweet reserve has some sulfite in it but not sorbate, that sorbate would be packaged separately. It can however cause the fermentation to be sluggish and possibly get stuck given the higher amount of sugar now in the juice; the risk is small given that the yeast is likely EC-1118, but there is a risk nonetheless. The sweet reserve was obviously meant to be added at the very end to sweeten the wine once the fermentation has completed. Fermentation might proceed and may go to completion, in which case he’ll have a dry, high-alcohol wine, or it might stop along the way and end up with residual sugar and sweetness that will not match the intended style of the kit.
      Daniel

      Reply
  10. Mike M

    Thanks Daniel,
    Since fermentation has not started and no bubbles in air lock due to the room temp is 65F, should he add some water to bring the sugar down to 24B? The kit is Chard.
    Thanks Mike

    Reply
  11. Bernard Smith

    I wonder if you might settle an argument about wine making – specifically mead making – yeast and oxygen. A number of fellow home mead makers argue that yeast require oxygen during active fermentation and that aerobic fermentation is far better than anaerobic fermentation in mead making. My understanding is that providing yeast with air during active fermentation can reduce the amount of alcohol the yeast produce and will likely result in more yeast cells budding and so the production of more daughter cells which in turn will require additional nutrient to help build their cell walls and the sterols they will need to metabolyze the sugar. I think their argument is that those daughter cells will always be produced.
    My question: does it make good sense to continually incorporate air (O2) into the must once the yeast have begun to ferment sugars? Does providing the yeast with air help create more esters in the mead or wine that then add additional and desirable complexity? Thanks

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      I’m not knowledgeable about mead making, and I say this because I know there are specific differences with white or red winemaking, for example. But there are some common generalities.

      Yeast does need a minimum amount of oxygen to initiate fermentation and build biomass. Once it begins (we call it fermentation but it is not technically in fermentation mode yet; it is in respiration mode), the high sugar content in juice represses respiration causing the yeast cells to then follow fermentative (anaerobic) pathways; this is called the Crabtree effect. But a small dose, albeit critical, of oxygen is necessary for certain metabolic activities essential for cell growth and survival; this is called the Pasteur effect. There is sufficient oxygen there from the start once the juice is stirred that more oxygen is not necessary. That little oxygen enters the TCA cycle in the yeast’s metabolism to enable production of many other compounds, yes, including esters. It’s not always necessarily good. And too much oxygen can divert the metabolism away from ethanol production.

      In white winemaking, which includes mead making, the primary concern is too much oxygen can cause negative oxidative effects, and so, personally, I do not recommend incorporating more oxygen once fermentation is active. Other winemakers will have different opinions, as have your friends.

      Reply
  12. Luca Ciciarelli

    Hi Daniel,
    I recently switched from using oak chips during primary fermentation to oak powder, but I’m not liking the results. The last few batches I’ve made have sour notes to them. I’ve looked on line for differences between the 2, but they seem to be treated as interchangeable. I’m not convinced, however, that using powder is the same as chips – perhaps the powder is imparting too much tannin, too quickly and may be overpowering the wine characteristics?

    Thanks.
    Luca

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      Hi Luca,

      First off, oak powder will impart flavors/aromas very, very fast given the much larger surface area in contact with the wine, and so, you need to taste very early on and remove the powder as soon as you get the taste you like.

      Oak powder is not always obtained from toasted oak wood, and so, yes, it will impart more bitter and harsher tannins. Oak toasting tames tannins and integrates all the oak compounds in much, much better balance.

      Then, there is the question of quality. Always buy renowned brand names from reliable suppliers, i.e. use only the best. There are generic products that don’t always give good results.

      I only use oak powder during maceration/fermentation when I want to lock in the color (when making wine from grapes), and that’s only for a matter of 3-4 days. For aging, I use barrels or adjuncts (chips, staves, cubes, balls, etc.).

      Good luck,
      Daniel

      Reply
  13. mike mosesian

    Hi Daniel,
    I am considering buying some Fusti S.S. tanks for long term wine storage. Are they ok for long term storage? Thanks Mike

    Reply
    1. Daniel Pambianchi

      Hi Mike,
      Please define long-term storage. And I’m assuming we’re dealing with fixed-capacity tanks as opposed to VCTs.
      They are ok if fully topped up and you monitor and adjust SO2 levels. Make sure your airlock or bung seals are perfectly tight. Ditto for all other seals, e.g., manway doir seal, etc.
      Daniel

      Reply

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